Message: We lift up our eyes to see the other person - and the star.
A new year, a new beginning - that's our theme. Last weekend - with Holy Family Sunday - we saw a first dimension: That God makes us for family. Because family means to bear each other's burdens, we experience a temptation to pull away - the temptation of false individualism.
In his famous story, "A Christmas Carol" Charles Dickens describes the danger of false individualism. As you remember, to Ebenezer Scrooge a ghost appears dragging a long heavy chain. The ghost explains that he forged the chain by his own free will - by all the things he clung to. The ghost laments that in his life he kept his head toward the ground, never really seeing people. "Why did I walk through crowds of fellow beings," he says, "with my eyes turned down?"* Then he adds that if he had lifted up his head he would have seen not only other people, but a "blessed star" - like the star that led the Wise Men to a "poor abode." Instead of now dragging his possessions as a chain, he could have given them to those in need.
Brothers and sisters, that's our challenge for Epiphany Sunday as we begin a New Year: to lift up our eyes to see other people - and the star.
Don't run out of the church. The place to start is here with your own family and your parish family. When you give the sign of peace, see the face of the person close to you. Don't worry about greeting everyone or making a joke. Look at the other person. Smile. Say: "Peace be with you." Or simply, "Peace." Ask God to help you mean it. If you know the person's name, say it: "Peace, Jonathan!" That person needs peace.
This ties with our theme: New Year, New Beginning. You can make a new beginning in your family, at least with one member. We can make a new beginning as a parish family. Not by putting on a feel good, happy face. That's OK, but we are talking here about hard work - lifting up ones eyes to see the face of that other person. Maybe someone you have lived with for years, maybe someone sitting next to you. A new year, a new beginning.
Start with the person next to you, but do not stop there. I remember the great scholar, Cardinal Danielou, talking about riding public transportation. Praying quietly, he said that sometimes he would be overwhelmed by the faces of the people on the bus with him: each one, he thought, God is calling to an eternal relationship.
I have to admit that when I am in a public, I'm usually not praying. I have my eyes down, doing my shopping, trying to avoid stumbling into others. New Year's resolution: Lift my eyes and see at least one other person, see him as an image of God with an eternal destiny.
On this Epiphany Sunday I want to lift my eyes higher still. Like the Wise Men to see the star - the star that guides to a poor abode, to Jesus himself. Meeting Jesus I want to place before him whatever gifts I have.
You and I sometimes think we do not have gifts fit for Jesus - but that's a lie. That's a lie of the devil who wants to turn our gifts into chains. No, you and I do have gifts as valuable as gold, as sweet as frankincense, as comforting as myrrh.
We can make a new beginning by placing those gifts at Jesus feet. Start with the smile. It's God gift. The sour face, it belongs to you. The smile is a gift of God. Ask him, What do you want me to do? And what is your plan for us a parish?
In a few minutes I will say, "Lift up your hearts." And you will respond, "We have lifted them up to the Lord." We lift up our hearts, we lift our eyes to see the other person - and the star. Amen.
*"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said, "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?"
Epiphany Proclamation of Date of Easter 2016
Proclamacion de Epifania 2016
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